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Cyclo-Cross World Cup #3 - CDM
Pijnacker, Netherlands, November 9, 2008
By Peter Hymas
The third round of the World Cup heads to the Netherlands after venturing to Belgium and the Czech Republic for the two opening events. A full schedule is in store for spectators at the Dutch venue with the elite men and women contesting their third World Cup race while the U23 and junior men compete in their second round.
Niels Albert, second in Kalmthout and first in Tabor, is the new elite men's World Cup leader. In only his first elite-level season of cyclo-cross, the 22-year old Albert's stirring start to this season's World Cup rewards him with the right to wear the leader's white jersey at the start of a World Cup event for the first time. Sven Nys, no stranger to sitting atop the World Cup standings, will look to rebound from a crash-marred race in Tabor to challenge once again for the victory and overall series lead. Nys has won the Pijnacker World Cup on three prior occasions and looks to put his experience to work on Sunday.
The Netherland's Lars Boom, Pijnacker's defending champion, won both his first World Cup and first win in the elite men's ranks last year and he's surely looking to excite his home nation's crowd with a repeat performance. Boom's current World Cup campaign has started slowly for the world champion with only a tenth and ninth place finishes to date and his status as the sport's phenom is undergoing a strong challenge from Niels Albert.
Belgians such as Bart Wellens, Klaas Vantornout and Erwin Vervecken have performed strongly at Pijnacker in the past and look to this weekend's event to bolster their World Cup campaigns.
Philipp Walsleben has enjoyed several weeks of good form in the U23 men's ranks, notching victories at the opening World Cup race in Tabor and in last weekend's European Championships. Looking to challenge Walsleben for victory will be France's Aurélien Duval, second to Walsleben in both of his recent victories. Belgian Tom Meeusen, third at Tabor, can't be counted out in addition to the Czech duo of Ondrej Bambula and Lukas Kloucek.
Hanka Kupfernagel looks to defend her World Cup lead over the Netherland's Daphny Van Den Brand, but the Dutch rider will be in front of a home crowd at a venue in which she's emerged victorious on four previous occasions. Van Den Brand and Kupfernagel have each won a World Cup race this season and their battle for World Cup dominance will surely continue this weekend. Look for Czech rider Pavla Havlikova, currently third in the World Cup, as well as France's Maryline Salvetat to be factors. Salvetat finished a strong second to Kupfernagel at Tabor.
American Katie Compton won last year's Pijnacker World Cup in dominating fashion, her first-ever World Cup victory, but has been struggling with injuries this season. Compton dropped out of the Kalmthout World Cup on the first lap and did not start in Tabor. She'll be looking for a positive result on Sunday.
The Junior men's series sees its second round in Pijnacker. Dutch rider Tijmen Eising won the opening round in Tabor followed closely by countryman Lars Van Der Haar. The strong Dutch duo, who also sit first and second respectively atop the UCI rankings, repeated their one-two finish in last week's European Cyclo-cross Championships and look to rev up the partisan crowd in the day's opening race with a potential "three-peat". The Dutchmen should expect a strong challenge from the Czech Republic contingent of Matej Lasak, Karel Hnik and Radek Polnicky who swept third through fifth at Tabor and all sit within the UCI top-ten for this season.
The Pijnacker circuit is known to favor a power-rider with its leg-sapping stretches of sand and mud creating formidable tests of a rider's fitness. The three kilometer circuit situated next to a small lake is predominantly flat with only a 10-foot high bridge and a brief set of stairs situated in a berm to provide any elevation change. Pijnacker has historically been a damp affair and rain is forecast for the weekend providing an ample opportunity for the course to become sloppy and slow.